So, what is the most dangerous animal? It's closer than you think...

Although some animals are capable of inflicting harm and even causing death to people, animals evolved these adaptations to acquire food and defend themselves and their offspring, not to torment humans. On average the number of people killed by native animals in a year can be counted on one hand. This is not only lower than most other continents but also drastically lower than the death toll imposed on the Australian wilderness by humans in any given year.

Consider the number of deaths caused by shark attacks, which is often no higher than one per year. The threat to humans is really quite small compared to the 100 million sharks fished annually and the species are threatened with extinction.

Skhul 5 skull Homo sapiens side view
Skull & lower jaw from the Human Evolution Gallery (tracks through time) Age: 40-50,000 years old Locality: Found in a rock shelter on Mount Carmel, Israel Image: Carl Bento
© Australian Museum

A vast number of human deaths in Australia are actually caused by our own species, Homo sapiens. Motor accidents, homicides and suicides are such a relatively frequent cause of death that the animal we have to fear the most is actually ourselves. Over an average decade, tens of thousands of Australians will die in "routine" accidents whereas fewer than 100 might die from wild animal interactions.

So, the most dangerous animal is you and me. Given that Homo sapiens means "wise human" sometimes you have to wonder!